Again with this job, like the last retail one, I started off at a small store, moved to a big one. I always make the mistake of wanting to believe that my work friendships are more than they are, that they’ll last my leaving a place. I’m usually wrong. I thought that this time, it might be different because of all the hippie-dippie values and the bonding experience (war trauma?) of opening a store and becoming one big retail family. Turns out, not so much. Continue reading
I was walking by a schoolyard last Thursday on my way to visit a friend, and was struck by all these life’s little reminders, right there in their schoolyard.
Let your reach exceed your grasp:
Play nicely with others:
Smile. You could be someone’s– maybe even your own– rainbow.
Don’t forget it has to start someplace, so be brave:
You’re only as alone as you let yourself be.
And the most important of all, because without it, you can’t do the rest full-heartedly:
There’s a fine line between long-needed solitude & escapist reading– and catatonic denial & avoidance. I’ve been trying to avoid crossing over, engaging in little small ways with the world the last couple of days even as all of me wants to just curl up in a ball and do nothing for a very long time. (Nothing defined by read nothing too emotionally challenging, eat, sleep, spend a little time in the garden, repeat…) So I’ve made calls to the plumbers & HVAC contractors to enquire about furnace service, something my dad hasn’t gotten around to doing as yet. And I put in my short term disability claim over the phone, though that made me short of breath & panicked at the idea of scrutiny. I went out of the house to get groceries, even if it was just to the corner meat market, & today I didn’t buy junk food, even if I did space out & leave my wallet at home. (Thank goodness they know me & would take my check, because of course I carry my checkbook.)
Tomorrow, I’ve got therapy first thing in the morning, and that will provide me with papers to fax in for my leave, and I will do that. (Functioning! See!) Continue reading
I am frequently asked if I have children– I don’t ask people why they ask me that question. Is it because I am a woman of a certain age and it’s a “natural” assumption to believe that women over 25 should have children? Is it because I’m not obviously a hyper-masculine bull-dyke and I wear Mary-Janes with quirky socks that coordinate with my clothes that are straight out of an L.L. Bean catalogue? Is it because my behavior codes as maternal, in my brusque & busybody kind of way? Is it because I work in a “helping” job and am usually the one with the common sense and resources/information to untangle people’s messes for them? How do these qualities come to be associated with maternal/”do you have kids?” rather than just “oh my God, you people are idiots, step aside and let me fix this,” which is sometimes what my inner narrator feels like a lot of the time? I try not to let that uncharitable & condescending sentiment show outside my head if I can. Is it just that we live in a society where asking about children is part of trying to get to know who someone is? (Why is that?) Continue reading
I saw an old friend I haven’t seen in almost a decade this weekend, and in between all the catching up, etc., she was remarking how good I looked– weight, demeanor, etc. She, too, looked better– despite us both being older and having some smile lines a little extra padding around the middle, both of us were lighter than we had been when we were younger. Lighter in heart, lighter in body, lighter in significant others (or lack of)– all around, lighter.
I was feeling a little sorry for myself yesterday after a health screening we had at work because my BMI was a little higher than our strict BMI range to get an extra discount over our usual employee discount. Granted, I knew my weight was 15-20lbs more than I wanted it to be– it’s been a stressful winter and I stress-eat– but seeing it confirmed made me bummed anyway. I’d resolved to treat the results as a benchmark to work from in terms of cutting back on starches, on increasing all those good things I should eat, etc., to decrease my at-work snacking and do better about bringing my lunch in, and I’m still going to do that.
But I was reading something this morning on tumblr– one of those semi-joke, semi-serious memes about how it sucks to be an adult and any small victory should be celebrated (I am a dragon, I am an adult, I have my 401(k), I breathe fire, I regulate my fiber intake!)– and it made me rethink my disappointment in myself as I drank my 8 oz. of water, ate my yogurt, and drank my plain, un-sweetened, un-be-creamed coffee, since I’ve decided that lactose may be one of my problems.
Right NOW, I happen to be 20 lbs heavier than I want to be– but my blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol all would have gotten me the next-to-highest discount. And I still fit my pants, albeit a little bit tight. There are ups and downs in my mood & my introversion & ability to socialize, sure. But– measured in the larger scope of things, I am 80 lbs lighter than the last time I saw my friend 7 years ago, have kicked a legal career that was eating my soul, have found a job where I am truly happy, have eliminated some unhelpful or toxic folks from my life, and am exploring ways to enjoy my own company pretty well, thanks– all things I didn’t do, then.
In a larger, more geological sense of my life, that’s huge. (Unlike my waistline, which is still a size 10.)
So, yeah, I’m not going to be hard on myself. Instead, I’m going to think of a more not-now way of measuring progress.
I am an adult. I am a glacier. I carve rivers and mountains, and leaved uncovered layers of life no one knew about before in my wake . Sometimes I make more risotto and eat more cookies than really I should. But I keep moving forward, and I’m pretty damn cool.
I’m at that age now (39) (older, have more insurance, long live Fried Green Tomatoes) where I not only know but accept and sometimes even bless the universal truth that no one really knows what they’re doing, even when they’re supposed to be an adult. I find that truth freeing, because it lets me laugh (internally) at the poser assholes who pretend that they do know it all (and inevitably get knocked off the pedestals they built for themselves), feel less insecure generally about my own talents, and get on with the general figuring out of what I think I should do in any particular situation/problem/whatever. It also lets me feel Zen enough about things that I don’t feel the need to get up in poser assholes’ faces just because anymore– now, I only do it when there’s a reason like– they’re fucking over one of my employees, or me, or someone in my family. Some random jerk being a jerk otherwise mostly garners an inner laugh with a side of compassion tinged with a soupcon of you poor miserable bastard.
However, I’m also at that age where I’m sort of in between lots of other age groups– the people born when I was graduating from high school, to whom I’m an authority or even a maternal-type (hah, hah, hah, hah) figure, the people 5-10 years younger than me who for some reason think my no-bullshit crankiness is actually cool (?) and seek out my advice, the people my own age who are also in the hohshit, all these people think we’re adult boat, the people slightly older than us who really don’t know that much more but whom we’re supposed to respect but really, sometimes we want to punch in the face because they’re just being a dumbass– and then, then there are the people who’ve known us over the whole course of our lives, be they siblings, spouses, parents, old friends, who refuse to let you be the person you are now that you don’t give a shit what anyone thinks, and they still insist and get really upset when you don’t care what they think– not because you don’t love them, but because you finally, finally, really love you, even to the point of letting yourself make mistakes and being willing to forgive yourself for them, because making mistakes at least betokens action, not stasis.
The looming precautions these long acquaintances wave over our heads are too claustrophobic– the feeling that you can never really be free of criticism for trying to find and be whomever your real self is– at least not until your loved ones are dead or you cut them the hell out of your life. It’s not unlike college or the first time you move out of the house and you have that chance to be just as you present yourself, except now, at this certain age, certain is what you’re finally beginning to be, and everyone’s calling that into question, saying you’re wrong to think, act, feel as you do.
It’s depressing to repeat same arguments over and over again, when family and old friends treat you like you are 9, not 39– and you can see all the behavioral patterns you’ve discussed in therapy so that now you’re aware of your triggers.
I’m not triggered, precisely– but I am tired of fighting with people for the right to be someone other than who they think it’s safe for me to be, based on their own fears and projections, and I am tired of not fighting with people for the sake of harmony, too, because, for the moment, affection outweighs my need for personal freedom. The definition of psychopathy and masochism tend to intertwine here, because I can’t possibly expect anything different to come out of allowing the same behaviors over and over, and I’m definitely putting up with bullshit that hurts my feelings and makes me defensive and sometimes more than a little bit crazy.
It’s why I cut off my mother for good this time. I was tired of fighting for attention I’m never going to get, tired of holding up both ends of a conversation and then being betrayed by her need for attention. I was tired of having to be nice to her so she could reassure herself that she was a good mother, when really, her self-absorption and mental illness are so exclusive that I only register as a mirror, not as an entity in my own right. It doesn’t matter if she’s not a bad person or if she doesn’t mean it. It does matter that she can’t stop, and that she hurts me, a lot, every time I see her. That’s the stop to that interaction.
It’s why I left my husband, because he didn’t want anything other than a fully functional wife who didn’t complain or ask for emotional support (and who made dinner and did the shopping and did the driving and didn’t nag him about anything unpleasant, whatever X=unpleasant that week.) I wanted the freedom to be intermittently crazy, to ask for help, to complain without being told I was wrong to complain, to vent without being stopped mid-rant to be told I had no “right” to be angry because my situation was my fault when I never asked for advice, I only wanted someone to listen, to have emotional reactions to things without being told I was either wrong because of some intellectual reason or because I was crazy. You don’t get to have it both ways– either you make an effort to understand and partner with me in my anxiety and depression and listen to me, or you shut the hell up and keep your thoughts to yourself when I need to vent, because your refusal to help denies you any right to interpret my actions as sane, “right,” or anything else.
It’s why I shut off needy friends who couldn’t see that they’d crossed boundaries again and again. There wasn’t a fight, I just let things lapse. It’s why I shut off apathetic friends, who didn’t hold up their end of the communication, friendship, socializing, BFF bargain(s).
It’s why I try to keep reaching out to those friends who make an effort, even if we’re all busy & crazy at times. Trying’s the thing, even when they have kids or I have a workaholic job or they have opposite hours from me or etc., etc. Trying’s important.
It’s why I limit, now, my interactions with my brother, who doesn’t ever want to engage on an emotional level, because he is the king of denial, and he will not help out. Ever. I engage with his wife and his daughter instead, and if he wants to change it, he can make the first step to remove that iceberg I’ve put on my desire to have a real bond with him.
It’s why I am going to have a conversation with my Dad, though I cringe in advance about it, to remind him about the way he and his mother interacted the last few years of her life, and the way she would drive him batty with her constant questions and paranoia and interruptions. It’s why he needs to understand that he can either treat me like I’m 39 and stop projecting his own fears for his own health onto me and stop being controlling and stupid about things like how I am getting to work and whether I’m going to be out socializing with friends during the week. Because his having a shitfit about my riding the bus and calling me crazy at the top of my lungs is crazy, and I told him so last week. I said it very, very, calmly, when I asked him to listen to himself and his tone of voice, then asked him again– who was the one acting crazy? It did shut him right up.
I won’t be infantilized or controlled, because he’s scared about getting old or because I’m doing something he’s afraid of. But I’m tired of feeling like I have to wait until he’s dead to finally be free of the last person insisting I be someone I’m not– because I don’t want him to be dead, I just want him to either like me for who I am now, or learn to keep his goddamned mouth shut. I wish he was less of an asshole, because I find it hard to be compassionate to him as a poor, miserable bastard. For the first time in his life, he’s got a stable job, a decent income, and he doesn’t have to do all the work in the house. It’d be nice if he’d try to start to find a way to be happy– and act 71, instead of 17.
It’d be nice to start over. To start at all.